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The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia: A Comprehensive Resource for Healthy Eating (Compass) Paperback – July 1, 1999

34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

If you eat natural foods, or want to learn more about them, reading The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia will be a treat. The book is an invitation to learn the lore, health properties, and use of more than a thousand familiar and unusual foods and herbs. Each entry consists of a description, a little history or legend, the health benefits, and how to buy (or find) and use it. Author Rebecca Wood clearly delights in her subject--her writing is warm, like love letters to these intriguing foods. "I don't know what I love most about asafetida--its knock-your-socks-off sulfurous aroma ... or ... its pungent but pleasant and satisfying flavor," she writes of the herb also known as devil's dung. "I also love the way the word rolls off my tongue." Not all the entries are complimentary, though--Wood tried to like banana squash, but ended up feeding it to her chickens. Dotting the food entries are sidebars of recipes, preparation suggestions, and weird information that doesn't fit anywhere else: how horses get sunburned, why young wives fed their elderly husbands celery in the 1600s, tips for not crying over onions, and how to harvest natural chewing gum, for example. You may start by looking up a particular food, but you'll linger, reading just for the pleasure of it. --Joan Price

From Library Journal

In this update of a book originally published in 1983, Wood, author of the award-winning The Splendid Grain (LJ 2/15/97), provides an alphabetical listing of more than 1000 whole foods: grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, seaweeds, fungi, sweeteners, fats, oils, herbs, and spices. Entries include historical information, health benefits, uses, and buying guidelines. Sidebars studded throughout the text contain interesting anecdotes, recipes, and even the occasional poem. Wood includes a helpful section on how to store whole foods and a list of mail-order sources. She derives her information about the healing properties of foods from a combination of Western nutrition, traditional Chinese medicine, and Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Although some readers may be skeptical of Wood's claims for health benefits that have not been clinically proven, the book is filled with practical information that would be useful to anyone wanting to further their food horizons. Recommended for public and academic libraries.AJane La Plante, Gordon B. Olson Lib., Minot State Univ., ND
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: Compass
  • Paperback: 426 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (July 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140250328
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140250329
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,033,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

150 of 154 people found the following review helpful By Brenda B. Trace on November 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Well, Ok not quite but almost! A few months ago my teenage daugher and I were diagnosed with numerous food allergies and told to follow a rotation diet. A life long vegetarian, it was an almost overwhelming to be told I could no longer eat soy, eggs, pinto beans, kidney beans, avocados, etc. And my daughter is not allowed any legumes as well (nor sugar either).
Clearly the protein was going to be a challenge (we really dislike flesh foods of any kind) but then I read the guidelines for the rotation diet itself and quickly discovered the extreme limits of my food knowledge! Sure I had heard of (but never cooked) quinoa and flax but amaranth and yautia? Not. And even if I could find where to purchase these items, how would I prepare them?
Both our weight and our attitude dropped signficantly in the first few weeks. Then we "modified" the guidelines and found ourselves physically sick again. Luckily for us, my husband purchased this book on a trip to Dallas. While I was skeptical about it's holding my interest as an actual "read through", I found it quite engrossing from almost the first page.
Not only do I now know what to do with the foods on a rotation diet list (knowing that yautia is similar to potatoes means I can now make a favorite soup that otherwise I would have passed over) but because the index is brilliantly organized I can easily look up say "warming foods" and adjust my internal thermostat rather than the whole house which made my husband doubly glad he had bought it! The same for high BP, colds, cancer, you name it.
And I can relax about the protein issue as well knowing which foods on "our list" are highest in protein instead of just choosing those foods with which I might have previously been most familiar.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
Any book by Rebecca becomes a food bible for me. I trust her research, her training, her life experiences and her instincts about food. This Encyclopedia helps me cut through the marketing hype around natural foods. Besides being so informative, it's a darned interesting read as well! Friendly, charming and reminiscent of all things good, wholesome and healing. My young son and I love her old-time recipes for such things as tree sap gum and acorn meal. This book is a trustworthy guide to making food choices. It belongs on anyone's shelf of tried and true natural health classics.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent reference for any cook who wants to know more about whole foods, including grains, vegetables, fruits, etc. Rebecca is a very kind, warm person, and her personality shines through in this book.
The contents include both Western scientific knowledge about the proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals contained in foods, as well as their properties from an Eastern perspective, including Ayurvedic and Chinese Traditional Medicince. Rebecca draws from all of these traditions to present the wonders of whole foods. You may buy it as a reference but I guarantee you will browse just for the pleasure of it!
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Neta on November 21, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book indeed does what its title promises-- it's a fairly comprehensive review of whole foods. It tells you how to select each type of food (veggies etc), and incorporates some useful information from ayurvedic tradition and chinese medicine. However, it only has a few recipes. In many cases, you close the book feeling educated on a certain food but still have no idea how to eat it. The other problem I have with it is that sometimes it comes off as alarmist (i.e., don't use re-boiled water when making tea because it has lost its optimal oxygen). A good reference book but I wouldn't run my life by it.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jerry on June 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
Sometimes, the trick with books of this nature is being able to find the information you are looking for quickly and easily. There are a number of other books on the market that contain much the same information as this book does (in more detail) but what sets The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia apart is its remarkable ability to simplify the key information down to the most essential basics. Elson Haas' Staying Healthy With Nutrition for example, is an excellent resource but at nearly 1000 pages it requires a bit of digging to get to the specific information you need. The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia is always the first place I check for the basics before researching more specialized, detailed sources. It's to natural food what Ephraim Katz' Film Encyclopedia is to film...namely, the best resource for concise, general overviews.

The author is very good about providing cautions of possible adverse issues with certain foods. For example, the author discourages the use of canola (rapeseed) oil, overconsumption of raw, uncooked flaxseed due to possible toxins and a concern with rancidity of pre-shelled nuts and seeds. Some health food books can get a little carried away with championing the alleged health benefits of foods without posting any warnings about potential mis-use.

One should note that this book does not contain information on any animal products.
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84 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 24, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a great reference to foods and current dietary practices. Being a proponent of Weston Price's research on diet, I was pleased to find that the informationin this book is very much in line with that information.
The book is laid out in alphabetical order, listing each food discussed, and describing how to choose and use it in one's diet. I was quite pleased with how comprehensive and wide ranging the information was. The cover states that it includes information on Ayurveda, Western nutrition, and tradidtional Chinese medicine, and the book lives up to that promise very well.
I have grown tired of all the fad diets and cookbooks that are perpetrated by various economic interests, and this book is a breath of fresh air. My only complaints are the near total lack of information about animal foods (which the book does not even pretend to include, so that is okay), and the "incomplete" information on soy. I have serious issues with the soy industry and some of the goings on therein, and personally avoid soy products of any kind like the plague. The soy industry has been behind campaigns of disinformation about healthy oils like coconut, and I do not trust any information that comes from those quarters. Much of what is circulated in vegetarian circles about the history of soy use in the Orient is distorted. Yes, it was in the Yellow Emperor's book as one of the 5 sacred grains, but it was never eaten as a food by humans until it could be made safe by fermentation, and then seldom in amounts greater than a couple tablespoons a day as flavoring (until the influence of the modern soy industry, that is). It was used as a rotation crop to fix nitrogen in the soil until fermentation was discovered. That is a part of the history that seems to get lost in the telling.
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